Fans at D23 Expo were treated to a very special panel Saturday night commemorating the 80th Anniversary of Marvel Comics. Moderated by CB Cebulski (Current Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics) and Tom Brevoort (Editor; “New Avengers”, “Civil War”), the panel covered a complete history of the company since it’s original inception in 1939.
Originally founded as Timely Comics, the company’s first publication was “Marvel Comics #1”, an anthology magazine featuring 4 different characters and story arcs. These characters included “The Human Torch”, “The Sub-Mariner (Namor)”, “The Angel”, and “The Masked Raider”. Cebulski and Brevoort both surprised the audience with a tough trivia question that none of the audience members could answer: “Which issue featured the first-ever Marvel team-up?” The answer being “Marvel Mystery Comics #9: The Human Torch vs. The Sub-Mariner”. While team-ups are very commonplace in the comic book world today, this was the first time two different characters with different story-arcs ever crossed over in Timely Comics history.
In 1941, at the height of World War II, Timely published the first issues of “Captain America”, who was created as a way to raise the spirits of children with fathers who were away at war. After the war, Captain America was cancelled and the age of the superhero at Timely Comics began to dwindle. During this time came the era of various characters who weren’t very popular at the time, but have now been given a new life within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These characters include Guardians of the Galaxy’s Groot, who first appeared in “Tales to Astonish”; Patsy Walker, who has since appeared in Marvel’s “Jessica Jones” on Netflix; and The Black Knight, who was recently annouced to be making his first cinematic appearance in the upcoming MCU film, “The Eternals”. Despite the age of the superhero being temporaily dead at Timely, this was the time when four incredibly essential human beings entered the company and forever changed what would later become known as the Marvel Universe; these four men being Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and John Romita Sr.
By the time the 60s rolled around, Stan Lee grew tired of his job as a comics editor and wanted to write more serious material. He relented this to his wife, Joan, who encouraged him to publish one last book the way he would want to do it. From this came the first issue of The Fantastic Four, the superhero team that birthed what would become what we all know and love as the Marvel Universe. The Fantastic Four would later give birth to Black Panther, whom was a controversial character when first created due to the racial bigotry present in the American South at that time. Lee still pushed for the character, however, feeling that young black children deserved a positive superhero role model just as much as white children.
Shortly after the release of the Fantastic Four came Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, and eventually the Avengers. All characters that would greatly influence millions of people all over the world. Eventually popular animated and live action television series were created and later, live-action films. At first, most of the Marvel properties had partnered with film studios such as 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures, but beginning in 2008, Kevin Feige and Jon Favreau teamed with Marvel to create their own division of films beginning with the first “Iron Man”. This would later spwan what is now very well known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Cebulski and Brevoort ended the panel with a small tease at the upcoming Marvel Comics #1000, a commemorative issue featuring an all-new Marvel superhero. The book is set to be released this Wednesday, August 28th.